Obituary: Msgr. Andrew Connell, former director of Pontifical Mission Societies

Msgr. Andrew F. Connell, ordained for the archdiocese on April 11, 1951, died at Morton Hospital in Taunton on Feb. 13.

Born in Boston on Nov. 26, 1926, he was raised in Newton and later in West Roxbury. He was the son of the late Andrew and Edwina (Goff) Connell and was predeceased by his sister, Agnes (Connell) Colpoys in 2011.

Prior to entering St. John's Seminary as a member of the class of 1951, he attended the parish school at his home parish, Sacred Heart in Newton. The pastors of the parish during his early school years were auxiliary Bishop Francis J. Spellman, later metropolitan archbishop of New York and a member of the College of Cardinals. In later years his pastor was auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Cushing, later Boston's archbishop and also a member of the College of Cardinals. Young Andy probably never thought that he would hold an office once help by Bishop Cushing -- archdiocesan director of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Archbishop Cushing gave him his first assignment as an assistant at St. George Parish in Framingham's Saxonville section. Ending in 1959, it would be his only parish assignment in his remaining 55 years of priestly life and ministry. Although assigned to St. George as an assistant or curate, he lived in residence at St. Bridget Rectory in Framingham.

In June 1959, he was named assistant director of the Propagation of the Faith (now known as the Pontifical Mission Societies); he was assistant in that office until November 1972 when he was appointed archdiocesan director, he remained as the director until October 2007 -- 35 years, less a month.

He was a familiar face around the parishes of the archdiocese, visiting them on weekends and making appeals for the missions across the globe. Likewise he was known in Boston's Downtown where his office was at 49 Franklin Street, close to the Hub's Financial District and a block from Filene's and Jordan Marsh. He was also responsible for St. Thomas More Chapel, adjacent to his Franklin Street office and gift shop.

The legendary generosity of the faithful of the archdiocese towards the missions served as the launching pad for the thousands of appeals most of which were from missionaries themselves who came to the archdiocese for mission appeals, though also by Msgr. Connell himself. During his tenure millions of dollars were raised for and dispatched to the missions, supporting the growth and expansion of the churches in Africa, Asia and South America.

During these years he was in residence first at Sts. Peter and Paul Rectory and later at St. Vincent de Paul Rectory, both in South Boston.

He is the last priest of the archdiocese to have been named a monsignor three times. Blessed Paul VI named him a Papal Chamberlain (today a Chaplain of His Holiness) on Sept. 27, 1965; Just shy of four years later on July 20, 1969, the same pope named him a Domestic Prelate (today Prelate of Honor); and Pope Benedict XVI named him a Protonotary Apostolic on Jan. 22, 2009 following shortly on his retirement as Propagation director which was on Oct. 29, 2007.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, OFM Cap. was the principal celebrant of Msgr. Connell's Funeral Mass at St. Theresa of Avila Church in West Roxbury on Feb. 20. Msgr. Connell's third successor as director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Msgr. William P. Fay, was the homilist. Among the concelebrants were Bishops Arthur L. Kennedy and Emilio S. Allue; St. Theresa's pastor, Msgr. William M. Helmick; Msgrs. Francis McGann and Cornelius McRae; Very Revs. Brian R. Kiely and Bryan K. Parrish; and Fathers James Canniff, Kenneth Cannon, Brendan Darcy, SMA, Dennis Dever, Robert Kickham, Peter Nolan, CSSp, and Joseph White.

Msgr. Connell was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Malden.